DISCLAIMER - TMNT belongs to Kevin Eastman, Peter Laird, Mirage Studios and 4Kids Entertainment.
A/N - Despite what you may think from the summary, this story is NOT a chibi fic. I just want to get that out there right now. I hope you enjoy it, and thanks for reading.
This fic was inspired after a talk I had with my mother. I won't say what the topic was on as it is somewhat personal, but the talk got me thinking and as a result, I came up with the concept for the spiritual story you see before you.
AA/N - So I decided to modify this fic and split it up into a couple chapters. It was a touch too long, and there were several breaks in the story naturally, so it just seemed more appropriate to have it this way.
I want to tell you a story. Now, you may think this will be some fantastic story about heroes and trials and sadness, but I need to tell you something first: You are absolutely correct, but not in the way you may think. This story is about a boy, my little brother actually, named Sam, and his heroes, the green men.
I wish I could say that Sam was an average everyday kid who went to school, got decent grades and played with friends, but the truth is I can not tell you that, because Sam was not average. Sam was actually above average. He could calculate any math problem in an instant, retell a story he had just read perfectly, even count over a hundred things in less than a second. He was bright, energetic and gifted. A savant is what they called him. Unfortunately, his intelligence was what gave the first signs, and when he was three years old, a doctor diagnosed him with autism.
It was hard to say the least. My parents tried their best to nurture Sam as he grew older, but they were easily frustrated. Sam would panic at any little change that might occur. If Sesame Street was not on for some reason, he would scream and scream and scream as my mother and father tried desperately for hours to calm him down. I could only watch as I was too young to do anything else, after all, I was only a couple years older than him.
I felt bad for my little brother. It hurt me to see him like this all the time. I wanted to help him, chase away the problems he faced, help him to grow up, nurture him, and protect him. I wanted to be the perfect big brother for him.
But I was a child at the time as well, and children that age do not take things very well. My parents were always doting and fussing over him. He was the center of their world, the center of attention. They had to make sure everything was perfect for him, and in the process, I felt ignored. I both loved and hated Sam right then. I loved him as my little brother, but I hated the fact that he stole Mom and Dad from me.
And so it was that one day I got fed up and pushed Sam, and he fell. He fell down the stairs, and I watched as he tumbled every step of the long staircase down and down until he came to a stop at the bottom, a mangled heap of limbs and a face stricken with pure terror and confusion.
It felt like an eternity, the empty silence after he stopped moving. It was probably only a few seconds, but those few seconds stretched to encompass enough time where I felt just about every emotion that had been given a name: Anger, elation, triumph, all the way to confusion, fear and then guilt. And at guilt, that was when the silence was broken by an ear splitting scream. Sam started screaming, and then my mother started screaming and then my father started yelling. All the while, I stayed at the top of those steps and watched as my parents made Sam the center of their world.
But I was not ignored anymore. Not at all. My father, once he had gotten off the phone with the emergency room, he saw me, he looked at me, he screamed at me. I finally got the attention I so desperately wanted, and oddly enough, I reveled in it for the briefest of moments.
I do not know why it felt so good. This was not what I wanted. I did not want this kind of attention. I wanted normal attention; I wanted doting and happy attention, normal attention that a parent should give to their child. But still, I enjoyed the screaming, because it meant someone was looking at me, someone saw me, someone had me at the center of their world.
I was eight at the time, and Sam was six. After the trip to the emergency room, having discovered that Sam thankfully only suffered from a minor radial fracture, I was sat down and lectured and question and cried to. Only then did it finally sink in to me what I had done. Only then did I finally realize that I had hurt Sam, that I intended to hurt Sam, that I intended to hurt Sam in a way that could have killed him.
I cried. I cried and I wept and I apologized to my parents, to Sam, to God, to anyone who would listen. My mother somehow understood what I was feeling and she comforted me. She made me feel better. My father, he gave me a look that seemed disturbingly lost, like I was some unknown animal that he was not sure whether it was dangerous or not. He looked away from me and left my mother to cradle me and apologize back, but I was not listening to her. My eyes were only locked on the retreating form of my father as he left my room.
I vowed that day that I would never again take my little brother Sam for granted. I vowed that I would help Sam, be with him and educate him the way a big brother should. I knew it would be hard and that I was subjecting myself to a lot of difficult work, but in doing so, I hoped that I would finally get to be what I always wanted: the center of attention. I would be the center of Sam's attention.
Of course, at the time, I had no idea just how much that responsibility would actually be forced upon me. It was about two months after the incident with the stairs that I overheard it. My parents were fighting again, they had been doing that a lot lately, and I was beginning to get worried. I knew it was wrong, but I was too curious for my own good. I sat down at the top of the steps and listened to my parents argue in the next room.
I could not catch most of the words, and I was too scared to venture any closer in order to actually hear them, but among the words I could pick up were both mine and Sam's names. It lasted a long time, and this particular fight was lasting much longer than the usual ones, and I was starting to get scared. My father was screeching, yelling louder than I had ever heard and his speech was oddly slurred. Later, I would learn that he had been drinking. My mom was yelling back, but her words were muffled and incoherent in a different way, as soft hiccups often interrupted her words.
Finally, two words stuck out among the rest as they rang loud throughout the house, filling every inch, nook, cranny and corner with their pronouncement. "I'M DONE!!!" A second later I saw my father quickly stumble out the front door, catching himself slightly on the frame just before slamming the screen shut with a thunderous clang.
I was rooted to my position at the top of the stairs for several minutes. I sat their listening to the soft clicking of a clock on the wall and the muffled sobs coming from where my parents had just been arguing.
I finally worked up the nerve to walk downstairs. Cautiously, I made my way through the suddenly labyrinth-like hallways of our home to come to the kitchen where my mother now sat, her elbows resting on the kitchen table and the palms of her hands digging themselves deeply into her eyes as they held up her limp head. I looked at her now, my mother, my proud mother who was always so strong for me and forgave me for what I did to Sam. She sat there, body shaking as she wracked it with restrained sobs that were breaking through her motherly defenses.
I did what I had known always worked for someone who looked like that. Taking a page out of my mother's book, I confidently walked over to her and hugged her the way she had hugged me not so long ago, and I let her cry into my shoulder. I thought it was odd, and I was scared seeing my mother so upset like this, acting like a child, like something could actually hurt her. My idol was now a broken doll in my arms, and I cried with her, although I did not know at the time why.
After several minutes, her sobs stopped and she pulled away from me. Blowing her nose on a stray towel, she wiped the last remaining tears from her scarlet eyes and looked at me, the seriousness and strength that I always saw in her returned. "Now, you need to listen to me Andrew," she said to me in that gentle yet serious tone she had. "Things are going to change and times are going to get harder. We're going to have to move and Daddy won't be coming with us. I know that things have been hard on you and you feel like you don't get as much of my attention as Sam does, and I'm sorry for that. But now I need to ask you to do a big favor for me. I need you to help me look after Sam. Sam needs a strong big brother, Andrew. Can you be that strong big brother?"
I felt my mouth creep up into a broad and confident smile as I nodded once sharply, telling my mother I could do what she asked. And then I hugged her again, and she cried once more.
- - -
After the divorce was finalized, my mother moved Sam and me out of the nice suburban town house we lived in, leaving my father to live there alone, and into a small apartment on Manhattan Island. It was a drastic change, to say the least; one that Sam fought us all the way through.
He was terrified of the change, of the lack of his father being around and of the small space. Every night he had a massive screaming fit, and for the first month, we had several threats from other tenants saying they would tell the landlord if the noise kept up. My mother frantically apologized to everyone, promising that things would get better and that she only needed more time.
It did little to appease the people, and the landlord did eventually come and talk to us. He was relatively understanding as to our plight, and that is why, he claimed, he was only giving us a warning at that juncture, but if the noise did not improve after another month, then he would have no choice.
I could not bear to hear that, and so I ran off, climbing out my window and up the fire escapes to the roof of our building. I huddled there crying for what seemed to me like hours. It very well may have been hours, I don't recall the exact time frame. All I remember is that when my sobbing had finished, and I had resolved to get up and go back home, that that was the moment I first saw them.
I heard a very faint knock, like a light stomp on concrete just behind the stairwell door that I was hiding behind. I froze in my spot, somewhat scared as to what the noise was. A couple more followed it, and soon voices started joining the chorus. "So what's the game plan tonight, oh fearless?" said a gravelly voice with a thick Brooklyn accent.
"Master Splinter said that he wanted this weeks training run to be about flexibility," said a second voice thick with strength and authority. "So that means we are going to be practicing our flips across the buildings for the next ten blocks, and then we'll get into a game I like to call, 'Who can Squeeze?'"
A third voice chimed in, giving a high-pitched noise of mock awe to the others. "Honestly bro, be a little more original. I mean, come on, 'Who Can Squeeze?' Laaaaaaaame! There has to be a better name for it."
"Not when you see what I have in store for you guys," the second voice replied, his authority now laced with a bit of deviousness.
A fourth voice groaned in response. "You didn't borrow anything from Casey again did you?"
The second voice chuckled evilly to the others. "You'll just have to find that out for yourself when we get there, Donnie. Last one to Twelfth and Laird has to go first." A chorus of soft padding followed the command.
I somehow worked up the nerve to peek around the corner just as I heard the others start padding after the obvious leader. To say they were quick was an understatement. When they had started from only a few feet away from my hiding spot, I peeked around the corner to see that they had already made it to the other side of the building and leapt across. I could barely see them through the darkness of the night and the smoggy air, but what I saw startled me. Retreating from my vision I saw four figures, each with a short but bulky frame that seemed too much of an oval to be natural. What bits of light bounced off of them reflected various tints of green to their skin as well as the variety of colorful bands of cloth that flapped behind their heads.
I sat there for awhile, wondering about who and what these people were, and what they were doing on the rooftops at such a late hour. Of course, late hour for me at the time was ten o'clock since that was my bed time. Still, I remained rooted to the spot for several minutes. Eventually, I dragged myself back down the fire escape and into my room.
After a quick lecture from my mother about how much I scared her, and how I needed to tell her where I was going in the future, I did my nightly ritual and went to bed. If you thought I had trouble sleeping that night, then you would be right. I think I barely closed my eyes for most of the night. There was something about those men that held my imagination in a vice-like grip and refused to let go. They haunted my thoughts, in a good way, as I thought about how mysterious they were, how odd they looked and how quiet they were.
But the one thing that stood out in my mind was something one of them said. He said, "This week's…" Did that mean they did this all the time? Were they going to come back? How come no one else had seen them? Were they dangerous or not? These questions swam through my head for hours, and I finally dozed off after I came to a confident decision that I was going to watch for them again.
That was Saturday night. I waited patiently for the week to pass, although I am fairly certain both my mother and teachers noticed I was more distracted than usual. I kept getting that tedious question of, "Are you alright, Andrew?" With that tone that really says, "I know something is wrong, but I don't think it's serious, so I'll wait for you to tell me about it."
Of course that tone is bogus, because they were asking right there what was wrong, so they were not waiting for me to explain myself to them. Still, I kept those weird men to myself. They were my little secret that made me special. Besides, who would believe an eight year old kid that green men were wandering around on the roofs of New York City?
So I remained quiet of my discovery and waited for the week to go by. I tried my best to hide my anxiousness. I was attentive to the lectures, I did my homework and I helped my mother with Sam. Perhaps, looking back, I was overly cautious, and that must have been what made things suspicious.
Eventually, Saturday came around again. After a difficult fuss dealing with my brother getting put to bed, I told my mother I would be in my room doing my weekend homework. I suggested to her that my being in the room with Sam might help calm him down since we had to share a room in the small apartment anyway.
Eventually, and reluctantly, my mother agreed to it, and I cautiously and silently went into my room, opened the window and snuck out to the roof, all without waking my brother, who, for once, was sleeping soundly.
Climbing the fire escape, I once again found myself on that dirty tar-stricken roof. A pungent stench of gravel dust and smog filled my nostrils. I quickly searched the area for an advantageous hiding spot. In time, I found the perfect place in a nearly completely boarded up alcove underneath a run down and useless water tower. The boards were crudely nailed in place and were put there most likely to give the unused structure a little bit more support.
I crawled through the open spaces between boards and peeked out of the narrow slits. I could not have asked for a better spot. I could see the entirety of the roof, from the long phone lines that stretched from building to building, to the numerous aluminum vents that scattered the area, allowing the cooler autumn air to blow free from its collection in the apartment complex.
And there I stood in the somewhat frigid night air, watching and waiting for the green men to return. I was early, I knew that, but I was determined to make sure these men were real and not just my imagination. I knew they were real and that they would come, and I just had to find out what they were.
It did not even cross my mind the fact that they could be dangerous as I sat there shivering. I waited for a long time, biting my lip against the cold. I was actually about to give up and go back inside when I heard them, the soft thud that announced their arrival on my building echoed into my secret hideaway. I quickly righted myself, shifting around so I was kneeling, and cautiously peered through the gaps in the wood.
The moon was out that night, and I barely stifled a gasp of shock at what I saw. Four….things stood in a small circle. The moon lit up their green skin and the dark brown of their checkered…shells? They wore belts and padding on their joints like they were about to go skateboarding. They all wore narrow bands of cloth over their eyes with varying colors: one blue, one red, one orange and one purple. But what my eyes locked onto, the one detail that stood out over all the others, were the weapons. Each and every one of them carried some sort of dangerous close range weapon. I recognized the swords and staff that the blue and purple one respectively carried, but the others were foreign to me.
"Alright, we're just going to do some simple sparring matches today," the one in blue suggested. He was the one with that strong and authoritative voice I recognized.
"Hehe, alright, just what I was hoping for." The one in red started beating his fist into his opposite hand. He had the gruff accent and almost seemed to be shaking with excitement for the grudge match they were about to have.
"But this is no ordinary sparring match," the blue one interrupted. "I want us all to give everything we have. I want full power, no pulling punches. Fight like you mean it this time."
"Leo, the concept of going all out could result in our getting serious injuries that could have potentially crippling effects on our future effectiveness in actual combat situations." I blinked as the purple one spoke. I only caught about every other word he said back then.
"Yeah, Leo. I can't possibly let poor Shooty and Steery get seriously injured," The orange one said, holding up and twitching his thumbs to signify that those were what he had given the names to. "If they die, my Metroid Prime skills shoot straight down the drain. And not just the bathroom sink drain. We're talking the mucho drain like those Whirlpools found in the oceans."
"Technically, Mikey," the purple one chimed in. "Whirlpools don't actually drain any water, but a current's force does twist around the water so that a downward pull is created where the water is then dispersed-."
"Yeah, whatever brainiac. If yer that worried, then get yer bo out and block everythin'." The red one had already pulled out his weird fork-like weapons and seemed even more pumped for the fight.
Soon, they were all duking it out. They really went at it, fighting each other, clashing weapons together. It was amazing to watch. It was like something out of those Kung Fu movies, except real and right here in front of me. Blood was drawn, real blood from a real cut. I was almost sick by the sight of it.
The fight did not last for long. After probably a half hour of brawling, they were all worn out, bruised and cut in various places. Also, the one in purple had called it on account of noticing the red one's knee being the size of a grapefruit. It was obviously sprained, and the purple one quickly ushered them all back to what was most likely their home, leaving me alone on the roof again.
I got up, went down the fire escape and climbed back into my room. "Where did Andrew go?"
The voice startled me, and I quickly spun around to stare at Sam sitting up in bed, a worried look on his face. I quickly shook my head, putting on a genial smile. "I went up to the roof to watch something," I told him honestly. "But don't tell Mom, okay?"
"Andrew supposed to be in bed at ten o'clock. Ten o'clock Andrew's bedtime. Ten o'clock."
I looked over at the clock by my bed. The numbers read 10:03. I shook my head. He always did this, made any sort of a fuss if I was late to bed. It was one of the things the doctor had mentioned. If there was any sort of break in a routine for Sam it could upset him easily.
But if that was the case, then I would just have to change the routine. "Listen Sam, I have a new bedtime on Saturdays. Now, on Saturday, I get to watch something on the roof, and then I come to bed."
"Special show on Saturday," Sam nodded out with wide eyes. "Does Sam get to watch the special special show on Saturdays?"
I stared. I had not even thought about Sam when watching those green men on the roof, but now that I thought about it, it may have been something he would like to see. Now, if I were older, I would not have thought that, but I was eight at the time, so rather than deny it, I simply nodded and said, "Sure Sam, I'll show you the show next week, okay?"
"Okay," Sam said before falling back under his covers and going back to sleep. I moved around the room, getting dressed for bed as quietly as possible before slipping into my own bed. I had no idea then just how important those men would be in both my life and in Sam's life.